The concept of zero is quite a complex one. Zero, as a number, first emerged in ancient times, around 300 BC, and only during the 12th century, the concept of zero reached in Western Europe. But, a recent study, conduct by a team of Australian scientists, showed that bees understand the concept of zero without any struggle.
According to the researchers, only a few animals are capable of understanding “zero” or “nothing.”
To date, the scientists proved that monkeys, dolphins, and parrots are the only animals that can make a difference between “nothing” and “something.” Practically, these animals understand the concept of zero.
However, the recent study carried out by Australian researchers and published in the journal Science revealed that bees are the first known insects to understand the difference between “zero” and something.
Bees can understand the concept of zero
Ranking quantities, for example, is a concept we, humans, learn quite late in our lives as it takes a few years for the children brain to develop to such an extent to comprehend the concepts of “greater than…” or “less than…”.
But the situation is surprisingly different in the case of honey bees, and this is what the Australian researchers discovered.
The scientists were able to train some lab bees to identify images depicting a different number of dots to express different quantities. If bees were successful in choosing the photos with fewer dots, the insects received sweetened water. On the other hand, if bees weren’t able to identify the right images, the scientists gave them quinine.
Then, the bees were put to choose the image with fewer dots between a photo with dots and another one that was blank. In 60% of the cases, the bees preferred the pic with no dots at all, demonstrating their capacity for extrapolating what they’ve learned during the initial training.
In conclusion, according to the scientists, bees can understand the concept of zero which makes these insects even smarter than we considered them.